ROXBURY, NJ – The Lake Hopatcong Foundation on Wednesday launched onto Lake Hopatcong its long-awaited "floating classroom" educational vessel. The launch took place at Lake Hopatcong State Park in Landing.

The 40-foot covered catamaran pontoon boat seats 40. It will be used to teach area students and the public about Lake Hopatcong. The boat, built by Sightseer Marine of Hudson, Florida and similar to a floating classroom operating on Lake George in New York, was funded in part with grants from the USA TODAY Network’s “A Community Thrives” program and the James P. Verhalen Family Foundation and the Szigethy family, according to the foundation.

“We are so excited to bring the floating classroom experience to Lake Hopatcong for students and the public," said Lake Hopatcong Foundation Acting Executive Director Donna Macalle-Holly in a statement. "It will provide an interactive, hands-on educational experience to study the lake ecology, to understand why improving water quality is so important and to learn what can be done to protect the lake.

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The foundation learned last spring about winning the Gannett Foundation $50,000 grant, news that "set the wheels in motion for foundation to move forward with the acquisition of the vessel," said the foundation.

The non-profit foundation plans to christen the boat and reveal its name at a May 4 meeting. The 6:30 p.m. meeting, at the Garden State Yacht Club, will be open to the public.

"Currently, 800 fourth- and fifth-grade students are scheduled to participate in foundation’s educational field trip program," said the foundation. "There is limited availability this May and June for additional schools to participate in this fee-based field trip which includes the floating classroom, macro-invertebrate sampling in the Musconetcong River, a discovery hike and a watershed model to demonstrate water pollution concepts and their prevention."

The organization said those seeking more information on the field trips program for fourth- and fifth-grade students should call it at 973-663-2500.

The vessel will also be open to the public in July and August "operating on a limited schedule" from Hopatcong State Park, said the foundation.